I’ve always found the Revolutionary War interesting and a fun subject to study. I like military strategy, and for some reason (probably my years playing Warhammer miniatures games) I prefer studying older conflicts where armies move in more rigid formations…though I guess during the Revolution the Americans broke this meta with their guerilla warfare. Studying the war that led to the birth of my home nation is also neat and feels very patriotic. It was also a great conflict fought over a cause that is truly universal. Because fuck taxes.
Turn, the new TV show on AMC, is based on the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, a historical book by Alexander Rose. It is about the Culper Ring, a group of spies based out of Setauket, New York on Long Island. The series opens with Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich), a major in the Continental Army, realizing that the British have spies that are giving away the movements of his troops, which leads to his men being slaughtered. He hatches a scheme with his friend Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall) to coerce their childhood friend Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) into joining the revolutionary cause as a spy, providing insight into what the British are doing inside occupied New York.
Woodhull ends up agreeing to work with Tallmadge and Brewster due to the revolutionary leanings of his childhood crush Anna Strong (Heather Lind). Woodhull is also trying to save her from a sadistic British officer, Captain Simcoe (Samuel Roukin), who has been garrisoned at her inn and has set his eyes on her, by informing on his unit and sending his men into a trap.
Simcoe is actually one of the more entertaining characters in the show and is the kind of guy you love to hate. The portrayal is interesting, as Simcoe was a real British officer and seemed like a pretty upstanding guy who opposed slavery and other nice things, but I guess every story needs a good villain.
The intrigue of the show is also great, and watching Woodhull get dragged into a conflict he has no interest in keeps the tension high. He’s a married man with a child and a father who is a Tory, but he ends up informing for the American cause anyway, driven to it by the overbearing nature of his father and his unrequited love for Anna Strong.
If you have any interest in the American Revolution, then I’d say this show is a must-watch. But even if you don’t, I think it’s incredibly well executed and entertaining. The characters are very well developed with clear motives and interesting conflicts. The actors, many of whom are not super famous, are also very good and very appealing, bringing life to the historical characters they are portraying. AMC has done a great job in recent years with the show’s it has selected, and Turn is just the latest of great pick-ups for the channel.